Archive for March, 2003

NYT on the Evolving Antiwar Movement

Saturday, March 29th, 2003

Some interesting detail in this article from today’s New York Times: Antiwar effort emphasizes civility over confrontation. It goes into the nature of the organizations behind many of the recent antiwar protests, and the shifting of the movement’s emphasis from violent confrontation to more peaceful protest designed to appeal to mainstream opinion.

Robb on the Bush Doctrine

Saturday, March 29th, 2003

John Robb has a no-bull analysis of Bush’s strategy for safeguarding the US from terrorists wielding nuclear weapons: Is the Bush doctrine the right doctrine? He actually posted the piece before the outset of the war, but it still seems relevant. Unfortunately.

The Plaid Adder: Baghdad as Harfleur

Saturday, March 29th, 2003

The Plaid Adder has a thought-provoking piece at Guilty in defense. It uses Shakespeare’s Henry V to discuss the morality of war, and more specifically, the morality of blaming a war on those resisting invasion, since they could, after all, make the whole thing unnecessary simply by surrendering to their attackers.

Weiner: The Stench of Vietnam

Saturday, March 29th, 2003

Bernard Weiner, writing at, has some harsh criticism of the war: A familiar odor in the air: The Vietnam connection.

The Iraq-O-Meter

Saturday, March 29th, 2003

Again from daypop: the Iraq-O-Meter.

Iraq War Rationale in a Nutshell

Saturday, March 29th, 2003

Hey. I just realized something: is the most-prominent war-obsessed weblog that is authored by an actual O’Reilly author. Yay for me!

In honor of that, here’s a nice little Nutshell guide to our reasons for going to war with Iraq. It’s from, courtesy of daypop: A warmonger explains war to a peacenik.

The Guardian on War Strategy

Saturday, March 29th, 2003

The Guardian is running a long, but really good, analysis of where we stand in terms of military strategy in Iraq: How the Pentagon’s promise of a quick war ran into the desert sand. It describes Rumsfeld as being inclined to continue pushing for a quick assault on the defenses of Baghdad, rather than waiting for the arrival of the reinforcements that the Army is saying it needs.

I get a bad feeling about this. It’s way too Vietnam-esque. You have a civilian leadership that feels invested in an overly optimistic plan, and a military feeling like it is being denied what it needs in order to win.

The easy victory is not going to happen. The Army is going to say the only way they can win this is by killing a buttload of civilians, and Rumsfeld, Cheyney and Bush are then going to have an ugly choice: personal political failure, or mass murder of the Iraqi population. They will reliably choose the latter. And even having made that choice, and having chosen to ignore that part of the war’s cost, there will still be a terrible price to pay.

With Vietnam, it took 60,000 dead Americans, a million dead Vietnamese, and an uncountable number of additional shattered lives before the fighting stopped.

Excuse me: Can I have my Powell Doctrine back now?

Fisk: The Evolving Baghdad Bombing Campaign

Saturday, March 29th, 2003

Robert Fisk, in the New Zealand News: Bombs destroying Baghdad’s essential services. Also, a profile of Fisk from the same paper: Herald correspondent a scourge of US foreign policy.

Fox Taunts Protesters

Saturday, March 29th, 2003

From words mean things, word of a story on a Rockefeller Center anti-war protest: ‘Die-ins’ target war and news media. The good part is this:

Fox News had its own response to the demonstrators. The news ticker rimming Fox’s headquarters on Sixth Avenue wasn’t carrying war updates as the protest began. Instead, it poked fun at the demonstrators, chiding them.

“War protester auditions here today … thanks for coming!” read one message. “Who won your right to show up here today?” another questioned. “Protesters or soldiers?”

Said a third: “How do you keep a war protester in suspense? Ignore them.”

Still another read: “Attention protesters: the Michael Moore Fan Club meets Thursday at a phone booth at Sixth Avenue and 50th Street” – a reference to the film maker who denounced the war while accepting an Oscar on Sunday night for his documentary “Bowling for Columbine.”

The Short-War Bait-and-Switch

Friday, March 28th, 2003

The Washington Post is running a nice analysis that looks at the Bush administration’s nimble now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t behavior on the short, easy Iraq war.

Another Market Blast Kills 50+ Iraqi Civilians

Friday, March 28th, 2003

From the BBC, word of another horrific blast in another northern Baghdad marketplace that again seems unlikely to get the gruesome-pictures coverage on US TV: ‘Many dead’ in Baghdad blast.

Here’s a quote that hit home with me: “One man sobbed for his five-year-old son killed while playing near the vegetable market. ‘After this crime, I wish I could see [US President George W] Bush in order to cut him to pieces with my teeth,’ he said.”

My son is five.

Update: I think it’s completely possible that either or both of these market explosions have been cases of Saddam blowing things up himself to generate favorable propaganda. If true, that would be another item to add to a long list of reasons why Saddam is a Very Bad Man. But I still place ultimate responsibility for this war, and the carnage it is generating, squarely on George Bush.

Army Names Forward Bases “Exxon” and “Shell”

Friday, March 28th, 2003

The New York Times ran a piece on Wednesday (I think) by Jim Dwyer, who I gather is embedded with a unit of the 101st Airborne Division, the folks on the left side of the US forces south of Baghdad: Troops endure blowing sand and mud rain. It’s a pretty standard piece, I guess; talks about Biblical-scale sandstorms and such. But the cute part, which I didn’t notice until Janus pointed it out to me, was this: “By day, the soldiers from the 101st were kept busy reinforcing the camp they have set up here in central Iraq, primarily a base for the helicopter gunships flown by the division. The official name is Forward Operating Base Shell; another similar base is called Exxon.”

Maybe I’ve just been assimilated into the military hive mind, what with all the war coverage I’ve been consuming, but I can’t help appreciating the cynical humor reflected in those names.

Parrish on the Domestic Protest Movement

Friday, March 28th, 2003

Geov Parrish’s Dresden-esque Shock and Awe firestorm hasn’t come to pass so far, but I still find him a credible voice when he talks about something he has more direct experience with, like the next steps for the domestic protest movement. Like the earlier link I posted from Bernard Weiner, Parrish points out that those opposed to what’s happening in Iraq have better things to do now than block traffic and piss people off. Like, thinking about the presidential election of 2004.

Fisk on Basra

Friday, March 28th, 2003

Robert Fisk has a piece in Arab News describing an unedited videotape he watched that came from “Mohamed Al-Abdullah, Al-Djazaira’s correspondent in Basra.”

Doctored (and Non-Doctored) 1940s Propaganda Posters

Thursday, March 27th, 2003

A lot of you are not going to like these. But seriously, they’re really funny, from a certain point of view: 1940s propaganda posters remixed. Thanks to Bravo for the link.

And now, thanks to Hiro and Yserbius, here are a bunch more cool posters for those who prefer their propaganda straight, not doctored: From EBay: This is the enemy and The United Nations fight for freedom. From Snapshots of the Past: Jap… you’re next!, Loaded?, and Don’t Drop the Ball! And finally, from, Cruel Aviator.

Rumsfeld: Crisis? What Crisis?

Thursday, March 27th, 2003

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers testified about the war before the House and Senate today; here’s coverage from the Washington Post and a slightly different emphasis from the State Department’s Office of International Information Programs.

Amazingly, both Rumsfeld and Myers still appear to believe there’s a chance that the whole mess will go away when various groups within Iraq come to their senses and welcome us with open arms. The only reason that hasn’t happened already, according to Myers, is that those darned “death squads” (the new, favored term for the Fedayeen, apparently) are forcing Iraqi civilians to fight, “when they would much rather give up.”

Speaking to reporters on the way into the Senate hearing, Myers even seemed to hold out hope that the Republican Guard might still just simply surrender of their own accord: “There is still time for the members of the Republican Guard, their leadership, to do the right thing and … honorable thing … lay down their arms and be on the right side of this inevitable victory by the coalition.”

News flash for General Myers: You’ve tried this already. It didn’t work. At this point, floating more offers to whatever officer you hope will turn against Saddam and cut a deal with us just feeds into the perception, apparently widespread on their side, that we don’t have the stomach for a real fight.

For his part, Rumsfeld waved away the inconvenient fact that large-scale defections to our side haven’t happened even in Basra, the largely Shiite hotbed of anti-Saddam sentiment. He now predicts that the Shiites of Baghdad will rise up to help us overthrow Saddam. All in all, the “subduing” of Baghdad sounds like it’s going to be remarkably straightforward, at least the way Rumsfeld described it. Though he acknowledged that “it could take some time.”

Rumsfeld also dismissed Red Cross warnings of an impending humanitarian crisis in Basra, where the main water treatment facility has been out of service for nearly a week. From the State Department story: “While acknowledging that there are places in Iraq where water is not flowing properly, Rumsfeld said there is no intelligence coming in to suggest there is a humanitarian crisis at hand or that shortages have reached critical proportions.” I wonder how long Rumsfeld thinks it takes for a city of one million without adequate drinking water to reach a state of crisis.

Anyway, it’s nice to hear that everything is going so well with the war. Or it would be nice, if any of it were credible.

Singer: The Moral Cost/Benefit Analysis of the Iraq War

Thursday, March 27th, 2003

Peter Singer is someone who, in my view at least, brings as much intellectual honesty to questions of morality and ethics as someone like Tacitus does to military strategy. And he (Singer) had an opinion piece in today’s LA Times that really hit home with me, touching, as it does, on many of the issues I’ve been wrestling with in the last few weeks: How many lives is this war worth? (LA Times login required; cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works). In years to come, when we look back on this war, most of us won’t be focusing on the specific strategies and tactics that were employed in the fighting. We’ll be focusing on the stuff Singer is talking about: Were we right to go in? What did we accomplish? What did it cost? Was it worth it? We have an obligation, to our future selves if to no one else, to think seriously about those questions now, while we’re still in a position to make the choices we’ll be living with later on.

Update: The Web-hostile LA Times no longer offers the article for free, but still does. Go Web.

Tacitus on the New, Longer War

Thursday, March 27th, 2003

One of the militarily-smart types I’d previously mentioned that I’ve been reading lately is Tacitus. He has an interesting piece today on how things have gone wrong with some of the rosy assumptions that some, at least, were making before the war: Doctrinal purity. It draws, and comments, on an article from today’s Washington Post: War could last months, officers say. Choice Tacitus quotation: “But they [the US and British forces currently deployed] cannot win the war. They could win the war that was, it seems, expected — popular revolts at every turn, and a demoralized enemy fleeing at the speed of feet — but they cannot win this war.”

Dowling: Is This the Real Dubya?

Thursday, March 27th, 2003

As long as we’re looking at The Guardian, we can’t overlook the following droll knavery from Tim Dowling: Will the real George Bush please stand down.

Yesterday President George Bush made his first public appearance since the start of the war, speaking to service personnel at the MacDill airforce base in Tampa in an obvious bid to reassure Americans and boost the morale of the armed forces. But how do we know this is the real George Bush?

Later in the day a man who looked and sounded like Mr Bush appeared alongside Tony Blair at Camp David, leaving intelligence experts to ponder whether a lookalike had been used, and whether the same lookalike had been deployed on both occasions.

It has long been suspected that Mr Bush employs a string of lookalikes for difficult or dangerous speaking engagements, some of whom may have had their ears specially enlarged for the task…

It continues from there. Great stuff.

al-Chalabi: Forget About Winning Iraqi Hearts and Minds

Thursday, March 27th, 2003

From The Guardian of last Tuesday, expat-Iraqi brit Burhan al-Chalabi has this opinion piece: You should have known we’d fight. “So the message from Iraq is clear: go home and leave us alone. You will never be welcome in Iraq as colonisers. Stop destroying Iraq. Do not bury our nation. Stop the war and give peace and the UN inspectors a chance in the name of humanity.”